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Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

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Well Seasoned Cooking Class

Week Night Dinner with Chef Carl Sawatsky

Tonight my girlfriend and I were visiting “Well Seasoned”, a cookware supply store and cooking school all rolled into one. Located in Langley, it is a bit of a trek to get out there, but worth the effort for all the specialty items alone. We are not the most domesticated of women. We don’t pretend to know how to cook or even that we like to. So “Well Seasoned’s” intimate and approachable cooking classes seemed perfect for novices like us. A small class, reviewing with the basics, and giving you everything you need to enjoy cooking without the pressure.

We arrived early, so had the opportunity to peruse their shelves thoroughly. From cocktail mixes with socks to match, to hot sauces guaranteed to hurt going in and out. The store front is a food lover’s dream with many new flavours and elixirs to buy and try. There are even food themed dish cloths and aprons that help to add a little pizzaz to your everyday preparations. And best of all, enrolling in any class grants you 10% off on the purchase of any of these.

When time, our class congregated at the back of the shop, picking our spots, to be able to watch and duplicate three courses for our “Week Night Dinner” class. You take the class in pairs, an intimate workshop of 8 in total. We began by washing our hands and dawning one of their communal aprons. Each cooking station surrounds the staged instructor’s counter. It includes a televised screen broadcasting the overhead view. Multiple angles to watch and learn. And if you can’t retain it all, a recipe sheet is available at every seat for students to follow along with.

 

For the real life recap of the class and our lack of skills, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

I won’t be recapping the recipes and the how to here, you will have to take a class for yourself. But I will point out some interesting cooking tips and facts that I did learn. Our class was described online as, “Getting dinner on the table shouldn’t be the worst part of your day. It should be a great way to unwind and prepare a tasty, healthy meal for yourself, family and maybe even friends. Chef Carl will help you figure out how to take the pressure off in the kitchen and enjoy meal prep!” Tonight’s dinner included 3 courses, including dessert. Fresh Tomato Bruschetta, Creamy Portabella Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, and Coffee and Chocolate Steamed Pudding. One by one we would watch the demo and replicate what we had learned. Then after plating, we would get to consume our creations fresh.

We got enough ingredients to make 12 tomato bruschetta crostini between two. We marinated our freshly sliced cherry tomatoes with tomato vinegar, to amp up the flavour. Although our personable Chef spoke to using what we already have in our pantry, and utilizing it to help customize a meal. We rubbed freshly cut garlic onto broiled bread, then smeared it with thick ricotta cheese, before topping it generously with our tomato mixture and fresh basil. Simple, yet delicious, the type of dish I would definitely replicate for myself and others at home.

We then made our dessert next, so that it could sit and cool down before we dug in at the end of our class. A “coffee and chocolate pudding” that was topped with fresh whipped cream, and ate like a moist sponge cake.

This process was made easier for us with pre-measured ingredients. So we were only required to mix all the dry ingredients together, all the wet ingredients, then the two together. Here, we got a lesson on the quality of ingredients used and the difference they make. Like vanilla paste over extract, and instant expresso that the restaurant industry uses. The result, a dessert that was quick and surprisingly easy to make. And without the need to make it look “pretty”, another great dinner option in a pitch. Two for two, this class was right up our alley in terms of skill.

Our last course was a “creamy portobello chicken”. Made with heavy cream and plenty of butter, the “Well Seasoned” team was very accommodating when they offered my lactose allergic cooking mate, a coconut milk product to use instead. It didn’t quite taste like what was intended, but it still ended up really good.

Here, we went over knife skills: how to smash garlic, slice vegetables, and butterfly chicken breast. We also went over the importance of the wine being used in cooking. Chef advised not using wine that you wouldn’t consume as is. Quality in, quality throughout. Oxidized wine is okay, as long as you have drank it. Everything was pan fried at our table, over the portable stove stop. We learned that you know your pan is warm enough when you can smell the extra virgin olive oil, and can see the wisps of smoke coming from off of the pan. I liked how this recipe had everything coming together in one pan, saving time and the trouble of clean up.

When cooking meat, you want to have it turn golden brown, as this is a reaction of the caramelization of proteins, which equals flavour. Here, majority of amateurs cooks, such as myself, don’t leave the chicken alone, they toss it and turn it, instead of allowing it to brown; thus elongating the cooking process. This was a lesson in learning how impatient we are.

Our protein was served with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus seasoned in duck fat. Both of which ended up being my favourite part of this course, as they were both made by Chef Carl, in an effort to save time. Though we did get the demo as to how to do it ourselves, at home. For the potatoes, the bigger the pieces you can leave them the better, allowing them to sit on a sheet pan, before crushing them using one of many different types of apparatus. Here, he used a potato ricer with a hard squeeze and a finer gauge. And suggested flavouring it with mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, or any combination of all three.

Our entree was served with a glass of white, as a nice treat and a great way to pat ourselves on the back.

In short this was a great class and a fun thing to do. Date night or a way to learn basic cooking skills, you leave feeling full and having learned something new that you can apply to your everyday life. I highly recommend their comforting setting, a class without judgement or embarrassment. Just friendly fun.

To attend a class yourself, visit the link below or call the number to book.

Well Seasoned
20353 64 Ave #117, Langley City, BC V2Y 1N5
(604) 530-1518
https://wellseasoned.ca/collections/cooking-class-vouchers

Vancouver International Wine Festival 2020, Tasting Room

The 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival was a success. Eight days of wine and food fuelled fun. The event hosted 163 wineries, with 16 countries participating in 57 events, showcasing 1,450 different wines, with over 25,000 participants and attendees. And featuring 42 wineries from this year’s featured country alone: France. There is no surprise that this is Canada premier wine show.

If you can’t attend the week’s worth of events, or any of multiple seminars, dinners, and shows a day; I suggest at least attending one of the grand tastings. With 4 different opportunities, this is the best way to see and try many different wines as possible, all in one setting. It is essentially a wine convention, where wineries are arranged by country. And guests are invited to peruse through rows of tables, with each table representing a specific winery. At each, you can taste your way through their entire offerings: white, rose, sparkling, and/or red. Coming back for more of what you like.

Amongst all the drink options there were nibbles to snack on and games and activities to engage in. Cured meat carved from bone, miniature gelato scoops into miniature cones, and a showcase of cheeses and crostini to graze on.

We tried our hand at a few contest draws and tested our sensory skills by identify shades of wine and flavours that would go in to them.

One of my favourites booths is the Riedel one. I have always believed in the importance of the vessel when it comes to drinking, and I get to experience it first hand when I drink out of their varietal stemware.

  

We tried so many wines, and there were even more that we couldn’t get to. So the following is merely a glimpse at this awe-inspiring assembly. Something to marvel over and use as inspiration when looking into attending this event next year. If not others along with it. And help create the hype, the feature country is already announced. The 43rd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival will be celebrating the wines of South America.

VanWineFest may be over, but you can still enjoy your favourite festival wines. Many wines from the onsite BC Liquor Stores Festival Wine Shop will be available at select BC Liquor Stores – some even have the winery principal’s signature, a fantastic festival souvenir.

Need a guide to your festival faves? Download the Tasting Room program pdf, which lists all the wines in the room. Or get the festival app from Google Play or the App Store. Many of these wines are available at BC Liquor Stores and private wine shops. Buying festival wines is the best way to show your support and appreciation to the 162 wineries that brought their wines directly to you at VanWineFest 2020.

Vancouver International Wine Festival Headquarters:
Vancouver Convention Centre West
1055 Canada Place
Vancouver, BC V6C 0C3

2020 Honda Odyssey review

This week I was cruising around in the 2020 Honda Odessey for my latest “regular girl car review”. Last year this was one of the most memorable vehicles that I drove and wrote about. I was able to tie all of its family focused features into my single household lifestyle by recommending it as the ideal party bus, versus a people transporter able to hold up to 7 at a time. But this year I was determined to evaluate it better, to review it as what it was designed for.

But first, first blush impressions. As I am not the intended demographic, this one didn’t catch my attention like other SUVs might. A long van with all the round edges, it didn’t read speedy or fun, but instead: sturdy and stable with plenty of cargo room. In terms of size, it is a fairly substantial vehicle, I felt very small in the driver’s seat. Although on the same token, I liked all the room that I had within the cabin, unencumbered. With the pull down armrest, all the binning on the centre console and at the side of each door panel. Here was even a place to tuck your handbag right up front; doing so without needing to impede the leg room of yourself or your passenger.

As the “touring” model, this came with all the top of line bells and whistles. And you definitely get that impression right away, just by looking down from the driver’s seat. There were just so many more options than what most vehicles consider “standard”. Like a front climate and a rear climate function, which makes sense considering how long the vehicle is, and how far the air flow must travel. Individual head phone jacks, cup holders, and USB ports for each individual seat. And a built-in DVD player, that I never got to experience as the sole commuter. Of note is the speedometer display. Where others pay extra for such an after market feature, this comes standard in the Odessey, giving it the look of an aftermarket dash display; like that of a race car. And it only happened once, but to my surprise the infotainment system started speaking in a very soothing female voice, letting me know that there was a hazardous driving condition reported in at a specific road. It was not near my route, but I thought that was still a very kind gesture of the car.

The 2020 Odessey also had all the standard features you come to expect from a modern vehicle: Econ and sport mode, lane and parking assist, and adjustable lumbar support that you can customize. Of note, I made the mistake of not setting my preferred seat, wheel, and mirror position as a favourite when I exited the car for the first time; so make sure that you. Because be warned, the time you take to set it perfect is all for nought when the driver seat pulls out when you exit, and readjusts itself naturally to the second driver’s specifications when you come back in. A bit of a hassle, but in contrast features like the heated and cooling seats stay hot or cool, so that when you return to the vehicle you need not toggle those preferences again.

As for the way it drove: There was plenty of body rolling on turns, but on the straightaways it was smooth and stable, like you were driving a tank. It was good on rainy days, the weight had it sticking to the ground, and with its size you barely felt the speed bumps you glided over. Although, the car does jerk a bit after you stop and lift your foot from the brake, here using the E brake is recommend. I definitely didn’t get the speed and acceleration from this, that I am used to with other vehicles on the highway. It was very difficult for me to overtake cars and change lanes like I normally do. Even with a double tap on the drive button to put it in sport mode, it still left sluggish. I found myself mashing down on the gas pedal, trying to get additional more power and it just wasn’t there. I could feel the vehicle struggle under me.

Every time you stop you have the option of pushing down hard to turn off the engine to save fuel. A gauge tells you the distance you’ve driven, your average fuel consumption, and the range you have left. For safety it had all the precautionary assists: lanes, braking, and parking; including the words “brake” flashing across the dash when the vehicle thinks you are going to fast and might collide with something in front of you. And when it came to parking, reverse stall is my specialty, however in the Odyssey it did take some getting use to. All the visual sensors and sounding beeps do help, although they also do a good job scaring you away from hitting anything. There was also a weird sputtering noise I heard from under the hood, it didn’t effect my drive, just something unmistakable.

Once again, I am definitely not the intended demographic for this vehicle, therefore I reached out to someone who is. A mother and daughter duo who would appreciate the comfort and space of the 2020 Honda Odyssey, therefore the second half of this post is written in their perspective. All the points I found troublesome above, made it the ideal vehicle for a family of 4 or more. We planned a trip to a farmer’s market to be able to test out the utilities of the mini van, including the tailgate.

Our journey began with me picking them up, and the install of our littlest passenger’s car seat. The seatbelt buckle dangling from the roof that once beguiled me, now made sense. I saw mom pulling the strap down and using it to secure the seat securely in to place.

I now also had reason to open the side doors that self slide open with a pull of the latch or a push of a button. Its ease helps busy moms with full arms, load and unload kids and goods into the van. Similarly, the foot release tailgate helped in loading handfuls of grocery and assorted gear when you could use another set of hands.

Once situated and comfortable in the Honda Odessey, Mom asked how many soccer kids could fit in the backseat and how much hockey equipment we could haul around with our minivan. She was satisfied with the conclusion, and I definitely found the right buyer for such a vehicle.

And with my new passengers’ consideration, all the power outlets, USB ports, and headphone jacks in the backseat were ideal in keeping little hands and little minds busy on longer trips. There was even a pull down sunshade to keep things cool.

Up front, Mom becomes command centre with all the buttons and features at her finger tips. She can open the doors to allow kids to rush in or out, without leaving her seat. Or give them the perfect cool down climate at the back, while she is toasty up front. And with the Odyssey’s larger gas tank, it helped to avoid the necessity of frequent fill ups. perfect for the daily commute and driving around the team to all their after school curriculars.

As for our planned tailgate, there was plenty of sprawling space at the back, enough to lay down a mattress, or in our case a picnic for three. And when we were done eating our particularly messy meal, clean up was a breeze with a built-in shop vac to help vacuum up all the crumbs.

In short, it isn’t the sexiest car to look at, or the one you want to arrive at a scene with. But it is very functional and very practical, and it definitely hits the demographic it was created for: moms and growing families. Thank you Honda Canada for the experience and to my friend for letting me play mom briefly for the day.

HONDA Canada
www.honda.ca

Visa Infinite Dining Series: Wildebeest

Today I was invited to my very first “Visa Infinite Dinner” featuring the collaborative efforts of “Wildebeest”, Vancouver and “Le Vin Papillon” in Montreal. Both of which helmed respectively by chefs Ian McHale and Jesse Grasso, friends and colleagues in this Montreal inspired meal to come. (As taken from the press release) Chef Grasso is “the third sibling in the Joe Beef clan and currently No.13 on Canada’s Top 100 list”. He will bringing his celebration of vegetables and cheeses to “Wildebeest’s” table of butchery, charcuterie, and game. A five course feast with canapés to start, and perfectly selected wine pairings every step of the way. Said wine was chosen by “Wildebeest’s” wine director, Christina Hartigan”. She is an impressive wine expert and enthusiast, with the title of BC’s second best sommelier.

“Wildebeest’s” cozy restaurant made the perfect setting for this private event. The narrow space had guests surrounded by red brick walls, wood panel separators, leather booths, and bulbs suspended by pulleys. Its rustic, yet homey feel played off their scratch-made, nose to tail, Pacific Northwest cuisine, well. We were seated towards the back, under the plume of a multitude of dried bouquets. Each seat was set with a name card and a menu listing the courses to come.

The night began with all the guests mingling in a mixed setting. Christina was at the back pouring glasses of “Jean Bourdy Crémant de Jura”. This was an easy drinking, 100% Chardonnay made in champagne-style. She mentioned that this was the perfect bottle to pair with likes of the light snacks that were also being passed around at this time.

The “Pomme Anna with kamouraska smoked eel” were tasty potatoes bites fried in waygu fat, and then topped with the eel and a dollop of sweeter mayonnaise. It was sumptuously rich and fatty in all the right ways. Definitely a great one to have with beer, or better yet: the sparkling above.

Next to be passed out was the “Waygu tartare with Chilliwack Horseradish”. It was served in a porcelain spoon for easy eating. It had a peppery tang that ended fairly garlicky. I liked the flavour, but am not a fan of the texture of tartare in general. Whereas, I prefer my raw beef in sheets, rather than minced.

I really liked the “Chicken liver and foie gras parfait with preserved wild berries on brioche”. I could have eaten a half dozen of these. Deliciously luscious pâté, smeared on thick. The sweetness of the berry played off the meaty paste well, and the crunchy brioche added some needed texture to the bite.

And I think this is first time trying whelks. They are much like their land cousins, and even seasoned similarly, here. These sea snails were prepared in plenty of butter with fragrant herb and garlic to finish. The seasonings masked anything musky you might not have wanted. I did like the firm chew of the whelks, it was a texture more like squid than escargot, which I prefer.

The “little neck clam with mirepoix bolognese” was served in shell. A scoop with flavours that ate like a meal, but I didn’t get much clam coming through.

When time, we were all directed to our assigned seats to start our meal. But first, a quick introduction to the program before us and acknowledgment of our traveling guest chef. Then our sommelier Christiana guided us through her wine choices, featuring many natural wines to speak to “Le Vin Papillon”.

The sit down portion of our night began with the “Mai & Kenji Hodgson Les Aussigouins 2016 Chenin Blanc; from Anjou, France. This is wine with a Vancouver connection. It is made by a former Vancouver wine writer that moved to France to make wine. His vintage was a lovely, medium bodied white with no oakiness, a fresh sipper that would pair well with the saltiness of the ham and starchiness of celeriac to come.

“Little burgundy ham, Avonlea cheddar, and brown butter”. This was one of the best ham and cheese platters I have ever had to date; and that says a lot, as this was just one of each kind being offered. But perfection together, with the savoury sweetness of the brown butter sauce coming through. I couldn’t stop picking at it. The creamy texture from the mildly smoked ham was memorable, especially how it played off the sharp and chalky cheese.

“Slow roasted celeriac, pickled chantrelles, and smoked walnuts”. Much like the dish above, this too was a light start that focused on delicious textures. Each element came together for a well balanced bite. Smooth celeriac, meaty mushrooms, and crunchy walnuts; best with a smear of oil from the pool at the bottom of the plate.

Our next wine tasting was the “Hajszan Neumann Nussberg 2018 Grüner Veltliner” from Vienna, Austria. Our in house sommelier declared that this is a wine that doesn’t get enough attention, so she would bring light to it here. It pairs well with any green vegetable, like the leeks in our fish course below. Its dairy nods went well with the green sauce and its savoury notes.

The “Lois Lake Steelhead, with Salt Spring Island mussels, leek velouté, Chilliwack lemongrass, and shore greens” would be my favourite dish of the night. And this is surprising considering I don’t often gravitate towards fish, or would I choose it over a heavy red meat main or a decadent pasta. But this buttery fish that ate like sashimi had it all, and I would order it again in a heartbeat. The freshness of the puréed leeks, the zested lemon in the sauce brightening things up, and the perfectly pedestal-ed mussels creating both visual and textural interest.

Next for wine we had the only red of the night, ideal for the red meat to follow. “La Stoppa Macchiano 2011 Barbera, Bonarda. This was a limited release from Central Northern Italy, pulled out from a cellar. It is a blend of two grapes at 50/50, all picked from a single vineyard. Made using traditional wooden vats that are unfiltered and triple decanted. The result, a smokier red with fine tobacco notes.

The red’s tartness helped to balance out the saltiness from the “Pastrami Pithivier served with sauerkraut, foie gras, house mustard, and bordelaise”. This was basically the merging of two Classic Montreal foodstuffs. A tourtiere filled with shredded Montreal smoked meat. But sadly I am not a fan of smoke meat, even with the delicious mustard plates. But I did appreciate the artistry and butteriness of the flaky pie crust and the gravy that I picked up with it.

Next, was the “Quebec cheese course”, another simple serving that I was caught off guard by how much I liked. There was pageantry in the plating of the Jersey royal cheese, topped with real honey comb, and served along side butterfly shortbread cookies and Quebec lingonberry. The latter most was even cultivated by monks in Quebec. This was a clean presentation that ate that way too. You spread chunky cheese over not all that sweet cookie, and topped it off with tangy berries in syrup. It was as fun to eat as it was to craft.

To pair with it we enjoyed an unique Quebec cider that you can’t normally find in BC. This is a bottle of fermented, 100% russet. Apples and cheese are a natural pairing and together the sweetness of the cider mellows out cheese above. But with an oakiness to it from the fermentation process. Dry and effervescent, it helped wash everything down.

And to close out the night, dessert was a “Grand Fir: Black locust, Chantilly, and cannoli pastry”. The pastry had an amazing crunch to it, like a solid strip of corn flake with ground sugar. And the black locus gel was set with vinegar, making it not too sweet. But I am not a fan of the texture of whipped creams in general, so it was a little much for me here. Although, I did enjoy the fresh lemon zest I got from it.

As its paring and our last glass, we had the “LaStella Moscato d’Osoyoos 2018 Muscat”. It is from Osoyoos in BC, but done in an Italian style; making it not as sweet as other Moscatos. A light sparkle coupled with floral and peachy notes.

In conclusion I was floored by the quality and caliber of this dinner, nothing disappointed. It delivered as advertised and I would be clamouring to attend any such Visa Infinite dinners in the future. And if you ever get the chance I suggest you do too. Simply fantastic.

Get tickets to exclusive Visa Infinite Dining Series events featuring unique chef collaborations, multi-course meals and wine pairings all in a private setting at Canada’s top restaurants.
https://www.visainfinite.ca/infinite/en/home.html?category=foodWineLink

Wildebeest
120 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1G8
(604) 687-6880
wildebeest.ca

Ombré Powdered Eyebrows, @BrowsByWinnie

I am lazy, I like to make my life easier whenever I can: looking out for short cuts worth taking and procedures worth doing, and today I was exploring the world of semi-permanent make-up.

I have thought about getting my eyebrows done before, something to help fill in the bald patches and round out the ends. Although at the same time, I didn’t think I actually needed the service, given that my eyebrows were already pretty thick and I am confident enough to go out everyday without doing anything to them. However an opportunity arose and I figured why not give it a try, to at least see if I liked it, if not to simply have the experience of getting a face tattoo.

 

I decided to go in to my session blind. No research, no reviews; heck, I didn’t even know what treatment I was getting exactly. All to be able to offer up this informative blog review of the new powdered ombré eyebrow treatment. For the raw and real recap, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei; where I filmed the whole process step by step. Or keep reading for the detailed description.

The salon I was getting it done at is located on Kingsway, my session was with specifically one of the technicians that work there: @browsbywinnie. She is trained in eyelash extensions and now powdered brows. Questions, I would later ask and she would later answer, as we undergone my treatment. She was certified in this technique last August and since then has completed the process over 50 times. Given her aesthetic and her own brows; done with the similar technique, I felt more confident in the process by just looking at her.

But before I could lay on her table I had to fill out a multi-page form that had me signing away liability and disclosing medical information I didn’t know, on illness I didn’t have. It was thorough. A check-list of sorts that Winnie would later go through with me, allowing me to ask all the questions as I needed, in order to feel safe with what I was about to get done.

Powder ombré eyebrows are the latest trend in eyebrow enhancement. Ideal, to those who don’t have much hair or brows that are too thin, and like the “make up look”, but might not want to go though having to do it themselves everyday. The other, and similar option is microblading, which has the technician drawing individual hairs for a more natural look. What I was going to get done would require shading and a more intense outline.

My concerns were not the pain, but more the commitment of having these brows for 2 years, or for however long, before they fade. A shape and a colour I would customize and choose, outside of what I was naturally born with.

The process begins with measurements. Dyed string and plastic rulers taped to my forehead helped create a guide. Where my brows would start and stop, as per my specifications. I had asked Winnie to simply follow my natural eyebrow. The first take had her doing just that, with me adding on adjustments, after the fact. After looking at it all coloured in and bold I decided I wanted a bit more definition in my arch. A look she was able to help me achieve with a little shaving using a razor blade and a q-tip dipped in alcohol to clean up any excess. She had me look in the mirror and approve the final drawing before we would move on.

Next it was picking the colour I wanted for my brows. You do this like how you would order off a menu, a menu of black to brown swatches. I followed the hue of my dyed hair, and choose a warmer light brown shade. This this would also help with the more subtle end result I was looking for.

When ready I was told to lie down on a Saran wrapped dentist-like chair, and to make myself comfortable. I relaxed as she prepped all the ink and tools needed, because once again, she was giving me a face tattoo. She began by drawing an outline of the brow, I felt the straight lines being drawn on my forehead. I didn’t find this part painful, but did learn that I have the unconscious habit of raising my right brow and keeping it arched, that most clients find their right eyebrow more sensitive that their left; and that the closer to the centre of your face she goes the more tender you feel, and. Luckily the next part she numbs your face for.

An ointment is applied directly to your mouth eyebrow. Saran Wrap keeps it covered. The result, pain free shading to follow. You are able to get a re-up on the ointment as many times and as often as you want. Winnie is patience and concern over your comfort. She told me a few people have screamed, none have cried, and that I was the first one to giggle. She commented on my high pain tolerance in disbelief, I never felt prouder. She compared the experience of the process and the healing to getting a tattoo done. The buzzing of the cordless tool, the scanning and itching that will follow in the days to come, and my inability to peel or scratch. The outcome today isn’t what is intended and won’t be what I get a week from now. The dye will appear darker to begin with, and like other tattoos it will fade. But where as regular tattoos go deeper into your skin to dye it, her’s are more surface level and therefore will fade over time. The longevity of the procedure depends on the person and how they heal. Here, no immediate touch up is required like you do with micro blading, just a follow up whenever you feel your new brows need a pick me up.

Right brow after left brow the process was quicker than expected. Not the 3.5 hours that you plan for, and that the appointment lists. The extra time is just an insurance, the actual shading took under an hour. I was there for only 2. And the only discomfort is her having to lay her hand on your face like a table, to shade. You get the occasional knuckle in the closed eye socket, but nothing you can’t handle.

When completed, she wipes your face down with a baby wipe to remove all excess ink splatter and dark spots. My first blush impression was positive, a new look that still resembles me. But all subsequent looks in the mirror had me not recognizing the person before me. This definitely took some getting use to. Also, for a week I had to apply eye makeup on thick, so that my bold eyebrows matched the rest of my face. But fast forward two weeks, I love the way they look and I love the way I look with them. Along with my eye lash extensions, I now have no fuss and no muss beauty 24/7.

As for the treatment itself, Winnie was a delight. She was patient with all my question, gentle in all her actions, and warming in her approach. I wasn’t scared because she was so calm and could speak to her own powder ombré experience. We ended up chatting as she completed my procedure. And much like a doctor talks to distract you from the pain of a needle, she had me recommending my favourite restaurants, and forgetting that I was changing my face by having a needle drag across it repeatedly. The session went smooth and I was sent away with a little draw string baggy that included her business card if I needed any help, after care tips and an ointment to dab and not rub in to my new brows, to help in the healing process.

 

In conclusion, if you are thinking about getting this procedure done and are either weary of the consequences or can’t find the right person to go to, I highly recommend @browsbywinnie. An modestly priced service that gives you back time in your day to day routine, is money well spent. Check out the link below for the salon and how to book with her.

JT Beauty Parlour
1726 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5N 2S3
(604) 423-3822
https://jtbeautyparlour.as.me/schedule.php

NaMì, Vietnamese food truck

Today I was invited down to try some modern Vietnamese cuisine from the food truck “Na Mi”. They are typically posted up downtown Vancouver, right by the Vancouver city centre skytrain exit/entrance. However with a regular Monday to Friday work week I was unable to catch them as they normally are. So today, we took a trip down to the Hillcrest Farmer’s market to visit them on the weekend.

They are parked amongst a few other food vendors, right as you enter the market area, clearly visible in a coat of medium blue against their all silver facade. The menu is listed by the register. It is easy to navigate between their variations on banh mi and/or their vermicelli bowls, along with a handful of familiar sides. All easy to eat on the go, or in our case as a tailgate.

Given the plexiglass box dedicated to fresh baguettes on the counter, we decided to try a couple of those first. Lemon grass chicken tends to be a Vietnamese cuisine staple, so we thought it best to start with the “L.G.C.” Banh mi, described as “Lemon grass chicken and house sauce with spring onions.” The baguette was fresh, crispy on the outside with a shell that crumbles; and chewy at the centre, especially when sauced up with the mix of cream mayo and tangy hoisin sauce. The chicken was delicious with its grilling. Tender and full of flavour, I wanted it more as a part of a bowl with rice. As a sandwich it was missing a tangy component, it needed more pickling.

Out of the two, I preferred the “Chasu pork belly” banh mi with soy hoisin glaze and spring onions. The bun was stuffed with thick cuts of meat. Not just grease and gristle, it had the perfect about of fattiness to pair well with the same creamy sauces and julienned carrots above. It just came together better in this rendition.

We followed our sandwiches up with their “Banana blossom bowl”, being curious as to what a “banana blossom” actually is. You can choose either lemon grass chicken or satay beef as the feature of this bowl of vegetables and noodles. We went for the latter, seeing as we already had the chicken above; and that it would best match with the peanut dressing poured over the bowl. Along side kale, spinach, cucumber, carrots, shredded lettuce, and banana blossom. “Banana blossom” is “a purple-skinned flower, shaped like a tear, which grows at the end of a banana fruit cluster. Traditionally used in south-east Asian and Indian”, (as per Wikipedia). Here, they were sliced thin like noodles and fried for a nice crispy texture. This bowl was my favourite of all that we had, tender meat, crisp vegetables, and a sauce so tasty that it made me want to eat anything that touched it.

We also really like the spring rolls too. Battered and fried with a thick and crispy shell. They were exactly as expected when dipped into the brightening fish sauce.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I liked everything we had and would not be shy to repeat when I see them next. On the same vein, I would also like to visit and dine at their brick and mortar restaurant, if they ever open one. Fresh and fragrant modern Vietnamese that comes to you, you only need to add our own seating into the equation. Don’t deny your cravings.

NAMI
Granville St &, W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V7Y 1H4
namivietnamese.com

Pokey Okey, Burnaby

Rejoice fans of “Pokey Okey”, you no longer need to travel all the way to Richmond to get your fresh fish and vegetable fix over rice in a bowl. Their second location is now open in Burnaby, just past Metrotown. A small shop with limited seating, no tables, and plenty of containers to take your poke to go.

Due to this being their soft launch they were only offering 3 types of poke today. Each is colour coded based on a feature ingredient, making it pretty easy to differentiate between the three. Therefore, I won’t be able to cover the entirety of their menu in this post, not until they are officially open the last weekend of February, leading into March.

You order at the counter and can watch your bowl being assembled before your eyes. Rice and/or greens first, salad and pickled vegetable next, followed by seasoned seafood, and crunchy toppings. All with multiple sauces drizzled over, at various layers.

The “yellow bowl” was bright and sunny with chunks of ripe mango, a pineapple salsa, sweet corn kernels, a sweet omelette, and a puffed tempura topping; along side non yellow items like spicy salmon, scallop salad, seaweed salad, pickled onions, and seaweed flakes over salad greens and your choice of brown or white rice.

The “red bowl” got its name from the chunks of spicy salmon, ahi tuna, kimchi, bacon bits; and an eye catching, perfectly round scoop of flying fish roe. The non red items included seaweed salad, purple cabbage, pickled carrot and radish, with seaweed flakes over more leafy greens and white or brown rice.

The “green bowl” had plenty of soy beans, wasabi peas and seaweed salad; along side ahi tuna, salmon, purple cabbage, pickled onions, seaweed flakes, wasabi mayo, and capelin roe. The tiny fish eggs were a showstopper for me, they had me favouring the two bowls they crowned.

And this weekend you can get anyone of the above for free! Just head down to “Pokey Okey” Burnaby for your free bowl February 29th and March 1st. And while you are there, be sure to tag their pink wall with some chalk art!

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I liked what I had today as their most popular bowls, but would definitely like to come back to try the full extent of their actual menu before making any judgements. Especially as this was my first time visiting their brand. (Haven’t been to the Richmond location yet.) Don’t deny your cravings.

POKEY OKEY
4919 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H 2E5
(604) 423-9339
pokeyokey.com

iDen & Quan Ju De Beijing Duck House

There is a buzz surrounding this newly opened, Beijing style, fine dining establishment, with a history that dates back to 1864. This is “Quan Je Du’s” first Canadian location, now opened on Cambie and 12th. During the time of my visit they have only been running for 3 months, and normally I don’t like visiting/reviewing a restaurant until after they have had some miles on them. Time to allow them the ability to hone their operations and service model. As such today’s experience wasn’t bad per se, it just could have been a lot smoother with more preparation and practice. Things felt disorganized and it was obvious they were still working processes out, like their drink and cocktail program that didn’t exist on paper. Thankfully our server’s skills and customer centricity made up for most of the unanswered questions and slight misses from the brand as a whole.

“Quan Je Du” is also better known as Canada’s first and (currently) only 5D experience restaurant. An option not available yet, but when it will be, it is for those who book their VIP room: i-Den. According to the staff this comes with a $1,500 pre-charge to your credit card. Here, guests will be able to choose their environment and with the use of technology, they “will be completely immersed in their chosen narrative, such as the hustle and bustle of Shanghai or the underwater world of a coral reef. There will be a soundscape, either music or ambient, visual projections on the walls and tables, interactive ingredients, with the food and taste rounding out the five dimensions.” (Taken from their website). By the sounds of it, I would liken the 5D experience to Vancouver’s other multi-dimensional experience: “FlyOver Canada” where all your senses are stimulated in an adventure.

As for decor, the restaurant exudes luxury. With an all glass facade you can easily take in the opulence of the lounge and dining area from the sidewalk. However their most iconic room is the foyer, only visible if you enter the threshold, where the host greets you at their podium. The podium stands in front of a lengthy glass pane fire place, surrounded by a series of blue shelves lit in LED. The latter are square cubbies that soothe with their alignment and symmetry. A few of them are used to house ornamental texts, many more the restaurant’s collection of stemware.

Just past this the restaurant opens up. The layout creates good spacing between tables with several booths sectioned off like office cubicles; but with gold embroidered throw pillows for panache. They matched the gold and blue theme that found itself on to the carpet and the lighting tone. I was in awe of the feature walls that were comprised of wood carvings, a traditional Chinese style painting of a solider on horse back, and the ones that mimicked the drawers of apothecary curios. For the latter, the drawers don’t actually open, they just simply added a level of authenticity. It all fit together seamlessly, very luxe. All, outside of the table’s centre piece: a gold dipped plastic rose, set under a cloche (beauty and the beast style). I felt it cheapened each table setting unnecessary.

And it is not surprising that the washroom is as elaborate. A bronze and gold gilded facility, set behind heavy doors with sealed individual stalls.

As for food, they are well known for their Chinese roasted style duck, so we had to indulge in the “Quan Ju De Signature Beijing Duck”. Be warned this dish does take 45 minutes to an hour to prepare, so be sure to order it even before you flip through the menu. This is a specialty item that you have to order before hand to confirm the quantity needed for the night. And at their China location they hand out a certificates indicating the number of your duck, a count made in consideration of all the ducks they sell globally. However, there is no such option here in Canada.

The whole duck is carved up table side by a professional chef in all white, with matching chef’s hat. He does this on the spot, hovering over a golden cart. You pay $96 for the service, show, and fowl. The perfectly sliced pieces are laid out like scales, served with a warm thin crepe, scallion, cucumber, and a sweet bean sauce. As for the rest of the duck, they pack the entire carcass for your to take home later.

The speciality dish was delicious. The duck skin is served with white sugar that you dip it into as per the suggestion of the chef. This delicacy is a little too fatty and sweet for my tastes, but an interesting combo nonetheless.

The slices of duck were cut so consistently, it was a testament to the silent chef carving it. With them, you craft your duck wraps yourself: dressing, stuffing, and rolling as you like. There was plenty of everything for 3 people to share, with the thin crepe wrap keeping warm by candlelight. But be warned the double decker steamer does have the bottom container getting over steamed and dry with an extended time over the flame. You take one wrap and fill it with slices of duck dipped into their house made black bean oyster and hoisin sauce. To it you add thin slices of cucumber and scallion, before folding the sides of the wrap together and the bottom up to create an edible pocket. And if you don’t know how it’s done, there is an option to watch your server demo it first.

The rest of our dishes were ordered in consideration of the cuisine type and what they might specialize in.

Since we were having duck, we figured why not truly have the whole duck with the “Quan Ju De Duck platter” which includes marinated tongue, gizzard, and liver. It came to the table smoking on a slate slab for extra flare.

The liver was a mild start, those familiar with the flavour will be a fan of this.

The tongue came bone-in so be careful, I didn’t even know there was a bone any tongue. It ate like cartilage and really isn’t bad if you like chicken feet.

As for the gizzard it needed to breathe more, in order to alleviate some of its muskiness. It didn’t really have a meaty texture to it, but one more like cellulose instead. It was best described by one of my guests as “foie gras eraser”.

We asked our server for her suggestion on what was the most visually appealing, this was her number one recommendation, and I can see why. “Smoked five spiced venison” with prawn stuffed morel mushroom, bell peppers, and scallions. The small dish is served smoked with hickory in a giant fish bowl with rocks and moss. The smoke is released table side, making for a great visual treat. As the smoke wafts around its scent becomes a part of the meal. Served with hard charcoal crisps, you eat it much like chips and salsa. Except, this was a tad overwhelming with the distinct flavour of five spice. I would have preferred it with rice instead, for familiarity sake.

I really like the “Tofu blossom soup”, but didn’t think I would based on the bland sounding name. It is a serving of thick and almost gelatinous broth, made with chunks of tofu, spinach, and Chinese prosciutto. The bits are sliver thin and they bob around in levels within your soup. It is simple and beautifully warming.

And to round out or meal with some starch we had the “Beijing style stir fried sliced pancake with shredded cabbage and garlic”. It is basically chewy dough cut up and wok fried like noodles. The dish had a vinegary tone to it: tangy, with the flavour of dried daikon coming through, and a needed crispiness with the shredded cabbage.

And your meal ends with a wet wipe that was thick like a facecloth. A nice little touch worth mentioning.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I would definitely like to return to try more of the menu and their 5D experience before making a full assessment. But for tonight, it wasn’t as expensive as I thought and the extravagance of the dishes is what I like. I would have to save up for the $588 chef’s tasting menu though. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

QUAN JE DU
2808 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2V5
(236) 477-7777

Artusi Restaurant, #LasagnaChallengeYVR

Today I was trying yet another Vancouver Foodster best lasagna contestant. This time traveling to New Westminster, and staying for a full 10 course dinner. I went in with no expectations and came out fully delighted.

If you are expecting what you know to be “classic Italian” cuisine, you won’t get it here. Like their restaurant name suggests, what they offer is a collection of recipes compiled and catalogued by Pellegrino Artusi. He gathered traditional Italian recipes from Northern Italy, Southern Italy, and the islands. Recipes that are now over 100’s of years old, well cataloged in the highly regarded cook book “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” (published in 1891). To this day it is still regarded as the original Italian cookbook. This is the framework that their menu is built on. That, and well composed and complimentary flavours using only 3-4 ingredients. And today we would get to experience it all first hand with a tasting of all the chef’s favourite dishes.

Walking into the restaurant we were caught of guard. I wasn’t expecting something this elevated in New Westminster, that isn’t located at the hub of the city. White cloth napkins and white table cloths on every table, soft candle light and dim lights. The decor was demur with playful pops of colour across watercolour paintings and green accents. A more intimate setting, ideal for a first date. Dressy enough to impress, but not over the top to intimate. Like the decor, the staff was just as approachable and warm. Friendly faces with regular check-ins and light hearted banter. You immediately felt welcomed and could tell that they cared. An important point I am always looking out for when I recommend a restaurant. And for this alone I would refer them, it is just a bonus that the food measures up.

Given the vibe we started off with a couple of drinks to ease into our meal. I went with a fruity rose that was recommend to pair with the seafood heavy first course. My guest opted for something more punchy in the “Quadrifolio” cocktail. A mix of Grey goose vodka, pear, lime, melon, and falanghina.

For food we began with some complimentary bread. Named after its knot pattern, this was a sweet bun flavoured with light rosemary and garlic, served with a dish of olive oil for dipping. It had a cake-like quality to it. Although the oil was unnecessary, as there was plenty of flavour in the adorable button loaf as is.

Then, we were spoiled with to a dish that hasn’t even made it on to the menu yet. Scallops served in shell with a spreadable andouille sausage and a saffron reduction. A stunning dish with presentation points through the roof and flavour that pops just as much. It wasn’t overly fishy, a great option for those who don’t particularly like seafood, like my guest today. He was happy to have the zesty sausage paste overpower the firm scallop in a pool of jus.

Similar in presentation and awe is the “Applewood-smoked Bacon-wrapped Prawns”. Although they looked a little burnt and tasted it. But nothing you couldn’t get past to enjoy a large juicy prawn and thick salty bacon. A great hands on appetizer, but try as I might I was unable get any meat from the heads of the shrimp; left on more for show than flavour.

I found the “Thinly Sliced Veal with Tuna & Caper Sauce” one of a kind. Even the chef referenced not often seeing a meat and a fish together in a dish like this. There are few such Italian dishes, but this one is still a stand alone. The still pink, meaty slices of roast beef were served cold, as to not have any warmth wilt the evenly dressed salad greens underneath. You get the unmistakable flavour of the tuna in the creamy dressing that was poured over each slice of beef. When trying it without context you are caught off guard, so spend subsequent bites figuring out what it is you are tasting and how you feel about it. I didn’t mind and thought it was a new taste pairing I have yet to try. My guest on the other hand couldn’t wrap his head around it. You just don’t expect tuna fish with another protein.

I really liked the next dish for the balance it provided for our entire meal. This was a refreshing salad of tomato and cheese, perfect with and in between everything to follow. There were three different kinds of tomatoes: confit, sun dried, and raw; all surrounding a bed of cheese, best described as the “Stuffing of burrata” by the Chef. He was proud to follow up that it is made in house, much like everything else. It was like a denser burrata, but just as mild and refreshing. A milky quality given some sweetness with the olive oil dressed tomato salad.

This was a nice transition into our pasta course. We started with the lasagna, and the reason for my visit in the first place. This isn’t your typical red sauce pasta, but instead one with three kinds of mushroom and a thick gloopy gravy. More slices of porcini, cremini, portobello mushroom than noodles, this ate heavy. My guests loved it declaring it “amazing umami” quality and earthy feel, whereas I wanted a little more of the cheese topping for its saltines.

The “Caramelized Sweet Onion, Guangiale, Balsamic Reduction, and Rosemary gnocchi” has a history extending back 400 years. It was sweet and salty, which reminded me of Korean gojuchung. We toyed with the idea of enjoying this with some brie given the standout balsamic reduction. But the highlight was when you hit salty pork, and it adding a variation on the flavour.

In contrast was their spicy gnocchi, this too gave me Korean vibes with hints of a picklin like kimchi. Good on its own, but I especially enjoyed pairing the two gnocchi dishes together for a nice sweet and spicy contrast.

We followed our pasta course with some meat. The “Pan-seared Beef Tenderloin & Fingerling Potato’s” were seasoned with plenty of garlic and fresh herbs, along side butter and roasted tomato. The beef was served sliced up for easy sharing, and its increased surface area allowed for more jus to get absorbed by the tender, medium rare beef. The fingerling potatoes also sat in a pool of balsamic reduction for some added sweetness. But the butter and salt were what came through on the palette. Overall it was a tad on the salty side for me, but my guest loved it just fine. I was just missing more freshness to it, but our tomato and cheese salad served well here. I would have also liked a nice rice pilaf to eat with it, or a nice crusty loaf to soak up some excess oil with.

And you want to save room for dessert, because they make for a great palette fresher and way to end on something light and sweet. Especially the lemon tiramisu with ladyfingers, limoncello sauce, and a lemon mascarpone cream. So fresh and zesty, it makes for a great dessert for those who don’t necessarily want something sweet. I liked the mousse topping the best, but wanted a crispier, graham cracker base to go with it instead, (The mousse reminded me of cheesecake with its salted cheese). Not to mention, I am not a fan of tiramisu because everything tends to be soggy, and I like some texture and crunch in my desserts.

For that reason I liked the panna cotta with its caramel coated almonds, on top of chocolate ganache and a rich cream more. The panna cotta was a cooked cream made with potato starch, instead of gelatine so it stayed creamier. The result, a light and luscious dessert.

The next dessert is mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar, and amaretti cookies baked and served in another mason jar. It was almond forward thanks to the cookie crumble, a nice contrast to the more pudding-like cream underneath. This is a dessert that grows on you the more you wrap your mouth around it.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
In summary, a great spot for traditional grass roots Italian. Rustic yet dressy, with flavours and combinations that we have never had before, using recipes and flavours much older than what we know Italian food to be in North America. You don’t expect to go to an Italian restaurant and have anything like this, served by a genuinely enthusiastic team and chef at the hem makes all the difference. I highly recommend “Artusi” for Vancouver quality food and service at New Westminster prices, at “20% less” (according to the Chef). They definitely check off all the boxes to be considered a hidden gem. Don’t deny your cravings.

ARTUSI
412 6th St, New Westminster, BC V3L 3B2
(604) 553-9922
artusirestaurant.com

2020 Genesis G70 review

This week for regular girl car reviews, I climbed into the more luxurious, 2020 Genesis G70. A stylish sedan that had my passengers confusing it for a Bentley, given the badge with wings and the premium interior with light brown leather. I, myself was enamoured with its image, impressed walking up to the lower profile, and again having the supple leather cup my body and stimulate my eyes with its creaminess. I squealed with excitement during my first drive. This definitely made my commute more interesting, and my need to be seen in and with it more intense.

I found myself doing things with the Genesis that I don’t normally do. Like I am not one to take note on how the engine sounds, however it is hard to ignore the roar of the G70. And I have to admit it sounded good. It sounded as high end as it looked.

And I don’t typically find the need to toggle between drive modes, simply keeping comfort in mind and on the dial. However, given the pedigree of the G70, I wanted to toggle through everything and find the best drive for my any route. Here, “comfort” mode delivered on a smooth ride befitting of a fine estate car. On “eco” it didn’t loose any of its zip, while saving you on gas consumption. But hands down the “sport” setting won my heart. Just shifting the dial back and forth, you could feel the increase in energy and power that came over the G70. It felt like it just took an energy drink and was ready to play. A little boost that shot you forward. This made up hill climbs a breeze and straightaways feel like you were on the track for a second. But be warned you can easily get caught up on how solid it feels at higher speeds, that you accidentally disregard the speed you are at. But at least with safety sensors the Genesis lets you know if and when you are approaching another vehicle too fast, and on any side.

As for the way it drives, the sedan handles very well, there is only a little bit of resistance from the wheel to make you feel like you’re in control, with the brakes stopping on a dime.

And obviously toggling between modes and keeping it on sport does come at a cost to your fuel. The Genesis G70 is hard on gas normally and more so when you play around on sport mode. I normally don’t find myself filling up mid week, but with the G70 I did. It is hard on gas, but at least it takes regular, which is just as impressive and it is surprising, given the power. However, if I owned the vehicle you would see me filling it up with 91, just so that it runs better on sport mode.

For finer details, I appreciated the fully electric seat and wheel adjustment. It is less common for the steering wheel to be electric, but wonderful to be able to get a precise setting for the most comfort. Every body is different so simply being able to move the wheel an inch up or forwards isn’t often enough.

And as a driver who does get confused by the windshield wiper setting: as in do I push it up or is it down? It is nice that in either direction you go, you get a read out on the centre dash. From here you are able to scroll through the settings whether its off, auto, high, or low.

The only negative in terms of comfort is specific to my build. I found the driver seat a little too long, and given that my legs are shorter, they were left dangling. Not problematic for my everyday commute, but not ideal for longer trips. Not that I would take the G7 on a road trip. For profile and gas consumption alone I would look else where.

Fun fact, you needn’t worry about dropping your phone between the seats.
People often complain about losing their phone between the cracks of the seat and the centre console, and not being able to find it or fish it out without getting out of the seat, on their hands and knees to search. However, this is not a problem with the G7, there is plenty of finger room to find and reclaim any dropped items. True story: my horror of the hassle of a hard search was quickly nullified realizing the above.

In summary this is a great addition to the Genesis line, and a treat to drive. It is well worth the extra you would be paying for it. Not your daily ride, but the one you take for weekend cruises and to nicer dinners downtown. Thank you Genesis for the long weekend with the 2020 G70.

#GenesisG70
https://www.genesis.com/

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